Friday morning a week ago at the Jerusalem Tennis Center, Joel Atkin, a student of United Hatzalah’s NREMT training program helped resuscitate an older man who had collapsed a few courts down from where Atkin was playing his daily tennis game.

“I try to play tennis every day. I recently began training to be an EMT with the NREMT training program at United Hatzalah. My goal is to be recognized as an EMT both in Israel and in the U.S.”

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United Hatzalah volunteers helping a patient into an ambulance. – Illustration

Atkin, who is himself a young grandfather, is taking the course together with his adult son. On Friday he put his training to use and saved a man’s life. “I saw a commotion a few courts down. At first, I thought it was a terror attack in the tennis center. I walked a bit closer to the incident and saw a man unconscious on the ground. He wasn’t breathing and turning blue. Two people had started CPR and I was able to instruct them on how to perform the compressions and the timing they needed to maintain and I worked to stabilize the man’s airway and provide ventilation. I asked someone to bring a defibrillator and once we had one we attached it appropriately and the machine called for a shock. We administered the shock and the patient’s pulse returned before the ambulance even arrived.”

“It was a very different experience for me than the training,” said Atkin. “Here was a living person who was not breathing and purple, and we were able to bring him back. It is very different than working on a dummy.”

Atkin said that the head of the tennis court approached him on Sunday to thank him personally.  “He wasn’t there on Friday but he came to say thank you. A lot of people came up to me and showed their appreciation and one person even asked to be my tennis partner “just in case”.”

Atkin was very thankful for his training. “Had I not taken the course, I would not have known what to do. I would have been standing there like the other 50 people who were gathered around not knowing what to do. I’m thankful that I began taking the NREMT course with United Hatzalah and that I knew what to do when it was needed. When I told the course instructor about the incident he said it was one in a million because even our fastest responders don’t usually have the ability to show up in the first 30 seconds like you did and that makes it a different scenario.”

Atkin said that the incident gave him more impetus to continue with the course and excel in his studies. “I’m going to convince all my friends to take EMT courses because it really makes a difference. Someone even came up to me on the tennis court and asked to be my partner from now on just in case something happens to him. It was heart-warming to receive the appreciation, but that isn’t why I am training, I’m training to make a difference, and thankfully I already have.”

The patient that Atkin performed CPR on regained consciousness after receiving the first shock from the defibrillator that was at the tennis center. He was fully conscious and talking with Atkin two days later in the hospital via his phone. Atkin hopes to see the man back on the tennis court again soon.

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